Reducing call wait times at the Claims Centers is vital to improving customer service and promoting confidence in the system. Since the unemployment insurance (UI) process is mostly automated, the Claims Centers are one of the few points that can bottleneck, making call wait times a good measure of ESD's ability to respond to fluctuating workload.
When a customer calls the UI line, they are given two options: 1) to hold the line or 2) to go on "virtual hold" and receive a call back at an appointed time. The wait times for the separate tracks are not connected. The introduction of Virutal Hold in December 2009 significantly reduced call wait times at the Claims Centers. As a result, the average call wait time "in queue" target was dropped to seven minutes year round.
Average call wait times "in queue" were down sharply in the first quarter of 2011, mirroring the drop in initial claims that usually follows seasonal highs in the October through December quarter. Wait times rose in June 2011 and July, again following a seasonal pattern. The agency has made several Claims Center staffing adjustments in response to lower call volumes through attrition, reductions in part-time hours, and some layoffs of non-permanent staff. Going forward, wait times are projected to remain around the seven minute target for claimants choosing to wait in queues.
Average wait times for claimants choosing Virtual Hold started to rise in June 2011. The percentage of claimants choosing Virtual Hold since the option was implemented is now at 79%. In the second quarter of 2011, 83% of claimants were called back within 3 minutes of their estimated call back time. This drop from 89% in the first quarter is most likely due to the decrease in staffing resources and fluctuating number of staff logged into the phone system, which affects the punctuality rate of customer call backs.